Psalm 22 – “Complaint/Petition; Hymn”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist begs God to save him from his enemies and leads the community to praise God.

II. Photo
The psalmist laments: “My heart is like wax, melting within me.” (v. 15b)

III. Select Verses    
2: My God, my God, why have You abandoned me; why so far from delivering me and from my anguished roaring?
7-8: But I am a worm, less than human; scorned by men, despised by people. All who see me mock me; they curl their lips, they shake their heads.
12-17: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls surround me, mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.  They open their mouths at me like tearing, roaring lions. My life ebbs away: all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax, melting within me; my vigor dries up like a shard; my tongue cleaves to my palate; You commit me to the dust of death. Dogs surround me; a pack of evil ones closes in on me, like lions [they] maul my hands and feet.
27: Let the lowly eat and be satisfied; let all who seek the LORD praise Him. Always be of good cheer!
28-29: Let all the ends of the earth pay heed and turn to the LORD, and the peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before You; for kingship is the LORD’s and He rules the nations.
30: All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves; all those at death’s door, whose spirits flag, shall bend the knee before Him.

IV. Outline

1. Superscription
2-3. Invocation, initial complaint
4-6. Hymnic rationale: God has answered the forebears
7-8. Complaint 
9. Pedagogic imperative
10-11. Hymnic rationale: God helped at childbirth
12-19. Complaint (with many metaphors)
20-22. Petition
23. Rationale: vow for future praise
24-28. Hymn
    24. Call to praise
    25. Rationale: God has not rejected the poor
    26. Vow/description of praise 
    27. Blessing
    28-32. Hymnic prediction

V. Comment
It has been suggested that Psalm 22, which begins with a complaint/petition and ends with a hymn, was once two individual units. Craigie writes: “The initial problem in determining the form of Ps 22 lies in the fact that the psalm contains at least three different kinds of material: (a) lament (vv 2–22), within which there are elements of (b) prayer (vv 12, 20–22), and finally (c) praise and thanksgiving (vv 23–32). The sharp distinction between the two main sections (vv 2–22 and 23–32) has prompted some scholars to suggest that originally there were two separate psalms which were fused into one; while this view is a possibility with respect to the pre-history of the psalm, it fails to take into account the evident unity of the psalm as it now exists. The mixture of forms and types of language suggests strongly that the text of Ps 22 is the basis of a liturgy, in which the worshiper moves from lament to prayer, and finally to praise and thanksgiving. The psalm should probably be interpreted primarily as an individual psalm, though the liturgy sets the problem of the individual in the context of the community as a whole; thus, the liturgy was clearly a communal affair.” (197-198) Similarly, Gerstenberger concludes that the hymn in vv. 24-28 “is therefore not an independent thanksgiving but an anticipatory psalm that belongs to the preceding complaint and apparently was recited together with it in the hour of petition.” (112)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo taken from